Wednesday 5 December 2012

giving the past life in collage and poetry

On my visit to London last week, I walked past all sorts of wonders and delights.
A shoe tree growing over the Thames across from The Tate Britain.

Borough Market which I walked through to get to my b&b the end of each day.  It's my favourite market in London partly because of its whimsically Victorian feel; partly its amazing location under London Bridge; and partly because you can buy the most *amazing* food there.  Everything.  From paella to falafel to street-dogs.  From cheeses to fresh fish to meat.  During the day it hums, alive with sounds and smells.  At night it has another sort of magic.

On an afternoon stroll near The National Gallery and Charing Cross Road, I encountered more Canadian flags than I've ever seen within a mile of each other back in Canada.

I visited antiques markets.  This one at Camden Passage in Islington, north of the river.  It's a neighbourhood I'd never been to before, but will certainly return to.  From what I saw, it's a vibrant mix of grotty and funky; artsy and sober.

On Thursdays, Spitalfields Market holds its weekly Antiques Market.  This was one of the reasons for my visit to London.  I was after nineteenth century letters and photographs.  In my original Spitalfields collage series, I used the photos I'd found on my first visit to the market and made collages from them including the first lines of stories which I wrote, printed out, and pasted to the collages.

("It was only in the morning's solitary twilight that she could hear that feathered song murmur through her thirsty bones.")

I came home with a pocket full of old photos.   Since I can't possibly know their stories, I like the idea of creating ones for them.

As I spread them out on my table, I was startled to notice that they were all of females - with one exception.  This was such a surprisingly touching photo of a man and his dog that I had to take it along with me.  

And I found letters.  Lots of lovely, old letters.
Those that I could read were mostly regarding payment of accounts.  One was from 1832 written by a fellow asking whether the man he was writing to (one he'd never met) might have a placement at his brewery for his brother for two to three years.  I can imagine becoming obsessed with the past through old letters.

They're even lovely as objects, regardless of any social-historical significance.

Unfortunately, I have to cut or rip them up for my collages.  I always feel an unpleasant twinge when I do this. 

But, hey.  So it is with art.  Here are my latest collages using fragments from the new-old letters.

(15 x 15 cm.) 

I recently bought some mini wood panels: 10 x 10 x 3.5 cm.  Here's the result.  It can hang on a wall, or sit on a shelf.  It was fun playing with a completely different format.

And a not terrible smooth segue from collage making to poetry, my poem "before" has been accepted by Niteblade Fantasy and Horror Magazine for their March 2013 issue.  I'm thrilled.  Thank you so much, Alexa!


  1. There really is something delightfully spirited about those old photos and letters, and that spirit comes out in your work! Lovely! Congrats on the poetry acceptance!

    1. Thank you Donna.
      I could spend hours looking at those old photos, and trying to decipher the writing in the - English at any rate - letters. The script was so elegant, and quite different from the script I learned in grade 3 (and no longer use). Writing was truly an art. And that paper! I even love the *sound* of it.

  2. I love the "feathered song" snippet and what your collages evoke. Very nice!

    1. Thanks, Wendy.
      I love making those story collages. There were six in the original series, but now I plan to make more. Old photos are so evocative and inspire so many ideas and images.

  3. The letters are indeed lovely objects. Do not feel that unpleasant twinge when you cut them up (although I quite understand, of course) for if I had written that letter so many years before and I knew you were going to cut it up and use it to make a beautiful art I would be very happy indeed.x

    1. Thanks, Trish! I love how you've said that.

  4. So sorry that it took me so long to respond here. I love your blogs, but have been completely busy with the life changes that I am facing and work. Busy, so very busy at work.

    Congrats about your poem being accepted. Is this the same or a different poem than the other that was accepted and you mentioned in an older blog?

    Success happens when you are busy living your authentic life. That's what comes to me to share/say. I will be saying that I KNEW you when ... before your amazing adventures in $ucce$$! See it and be it ... and SO IT IS!

    Love you my fine fine friend, (yes, it is possible to love someone without ever meeting in person!)

  5. Thanks, Jan. You must be busy with plans for the move.
    This poem is actually a different one, to a different journal. That's two poems accepted this year. (It sounds better if I say it's twice as many as were accepted last year.)
    You're so right about living an authentic life. Not always easy, but you have to throw yourself into it and hope that the outcome will be good.
    I'm one of those sappy people who thinks that the world would be a much better place if there were more love in it - and I think it can, and should, extend beyond our immediate sphere. Love is a much more complex and multi-faceted thing than we often think.

  6. I loved seeing your London images.. I went a few years for my son's wedding to a girl from Scotland. And those envelopes.. loved seeing them too. happy new year.

    1. What a memorable place for a wedding.
      I love just holding the envelopes and letters - the very paper has a feel of the past.
      Very happy new year to you too, Donna.